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First Drive

First Drive: Hyundai Ioniq Electric

The story:
First launched at the end of 2016, the Ioniq was designed from the outset to be either a hybrid, PHEV or full electric vehicle without the compromises of having to re-engineer a conventionally powered car to take batteries. Hyundai’s rival to the highly popular Toyota Prius and the Nissan Leaf has now been given a mid-life facelift and the full EV a larger battery to increase its range.

Category:Lower Medium
Key rival:Nissan Leaf
Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium
MPG:193 miles range
On sale:September 2019

Even before this mid-life facelift the Ioniq is Hyundai’s third best-selling model after the Tucson and the i10, and three quarters of Ioniq sales are company cars.

The entire range has been facelifted with a restyled front and rear and much improved dashboard including new connected technology. However, it’s the full-electric version that is upgraded the most with a new 38.3kWh battery pack that extends the range by more than a third to 193 miles on the WLTP test regime.

First Drive-23rd September 2019-Hyundai Ioniq Electric-Image 6The larger battery adds around 100kg, which means Hyundai’s engineers have had to tweak the car’s suspension and steering. Those tweaks have hugely improved the way the car drives. The ride is still very good, but the steering now feels more direct and in tune with the car. The result is a drive that’s more engaging that most EVs and feels easier to position accurately.

The claimed range seemed accurate on our test with the battery dropping in line with miles covered, which is impressive because this would mean the Ioniq is returning five miles per kWh. That’s much higher than the 3.5mpkWh we saw in our long-term Nissan Leaf. Hyundai claims the improved efficiency, despite the extra weight, is down to a new 100kW motor.

Hyundai has also introduced the system from the Kona EV that lets the driver use the wheel-mounted paddles to bring the car to a stop using brake energy regeneration. It takes some getting used to but works well once you’re familiar with it.

The cabin in the revised Ioniq now has a new higher-quality dashboard with all but the entry-level car getting a 10.25-inch widescreen navigation system with Hyundai’s new Bluelink connected car technology. Bluelink allows owners to control and view systems within the car from a mobile phone app. Included in the tech is remote locking, climate control and trip information, and in EV cars it will also control the charging. The system will eventually be rolled out to all Hyundais in the next few years.First Drive-23rd September 2019-Hyundai Ioniq Electric-Image 5

However, rear visibility is still hampered by the spoiler, and there are too many dashboard reflections in the windscreen in sunny conditions.

Against its Nissan Leaf main rival, the Ioniq Electric is easily the better car. Not only is it better equipped and has a greater range (from a smaller battery) than the Leaf, but it’s better to drive and simply feels like a more advanced vehicle.

Tristan Young

The verdict

The best small-family EV hatchback on the market. A very polished product now with better range and advanced connected car technology.